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Robot Maids for Elderly to Make Debut in 2013

Korea Times | November 6, 2006
Kim Tae-gyu

Hundreds of Korean scientists are working on developing robots, which will be able to set the table and wash dishes for the elderly, with the aim of finishing the task by 2013.

Kim Mun-sang, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Monday said the artificial-intelligence robots will assist senior citizens in various fashions.

``In 2013, a senior citizen will instruct a voice-cognitive robot to order food from a nearby restaurant for dinner then it will follow its owner's words to the letter,'' Kim said.

``Then, the smart robot will take out the dishes and lay the table with the delivered food. Cleaning up the table and washing the dishes will also be up to the mechanical servant,'' the 49-year-old said.

Kim projected the envisioned humanoid, which is likely to move on wheels, will also act as a loyal secretary and close friend of its elderly possessor.

``The cutting-edge robots will be capable of many caregiver tasks like verbalizing scripted reminders _ his or her daily schedule or time to take medicine,'' Kim said.

``Another crucial role of the humanoids is to provide ways out of loneliness, typical for the elderly. For one, they will connect those senior citizens who are Web-illiterate through networks,'' Kim added.

In the first stage, Kim and his 300-plus team plan to create a prototype robot equipped mainly with health-care applications late next year, named H-Robot (healthcare robot) 1.0.

``The wheeled robots will have the ability to measure heart rate and blood pressure, and be able to send the data to a doctor. It will also summon help in an emergency when its owner falls to the floor and doesn't get up,'' Kim said.

``The H-Robot will be upgraded to a 2.0 version the next year and will be able to recognize voices better. It will then undergo feasibility tests regarding healthcare functionalities,'' he said.

Kim has spearheaded the state-funded 10-year project of building ``silver robots'' since 2003, geared toward grappling with problems of an aging society.

As the nation's baby boomers become senior citizens, combined with the low birthrate and ever-extended life expectancy, Korea is rapidly turning into an aging society,.

In around 2020, people aged 65 and over are expected to account for more than 14 percent of the population, the milestone of the so-called aged society.

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